Oh no, not another Donald Trump article. Yes, I’m sorry for continuing the deluge of US-centric posts on this site, but I think there’s an important point to be teased out and understood from recent events – events that mark the realities of a changing, increasingly volatile world.
Volatile is probably an understatement. The year began with the outbreak of a fire in a luxury hotel, The Address, in Dubai, a burning effigy of what was to come. France was only recovering from the horrific Bataclan attacks from previous November, only for its neighbor, Belgium to be stuck by one in March, arguably as a follow-up to Paris. A spate of attacks followed: Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, Nice, Berlin – not to mention the ongoing wars in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, among many others. Lest we forget, the war on IS in Iraq/Syria has also been ongoing the entire time.
As war continues to rage on in the Middle East, there has been an exodus of people from their war-ravaged homes, as manifested in the European refugee crisis, where tens of thousands made the trek across land and sea to Europe. This, in turn, has had an effect on European politics – there are also links to be made with other global events, as we delve deeper into the subject.
The influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty fed into anti-immigration sentiments among European populations, fearing the threats posed by migrants – economically and culturally. This propelled the rise of far-right populist movements, from France’s National Front to Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, the Five Star Movement in Italy, and UKIP in Britain(of greater consequence), to name a few.
At the same time, the response to the ongoing refugee crisis highlighted the strains within EU members. While Western European governments generally welcomed these migrants – with German Chancellor Angela Merkel famously “welcoming” refugees into Germany, Eastern European nations called for more hardline policies to curb immigration, with Hungary and Macedonia setting up border fences.
In my opinion, Brexit, where the UK voted 52-48 to leave the EU, was a culmination of these events. Amidst the influx of migrants, as well as the failure of the EU to come up with coherent, unified policy underlined the precipitousness of its position, and was partially responsible for the eventual results of the vote. Famously, it was reported that British pollsters failed to correctly predict the results of the vote – when all polls pointed to a comfortable victory for Remain, the unthinkable happened!
All this point towards a certain trend in global politics – one that I’m frankly worried about. As recent events have shown, the terrorist threat continues unabated, being able to strike anywhere, anytime with the aid of modern technology. The onset of globalisation has been met with backlash by populations of developed countries, as seen from the rise of far-right and populist movements in Europe and the US. We’re probably going to see Western nations turn towards greater isolationism (as opposed to integration) with incoming elections, as governments attempt to stem the rising tide of far-right movements.
So where does Trump fit in with all of this? Parallels can be drawn between events in Europe and the US. In my opinion, the surprise victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton on November 8 was driven by 2 key factors – a reaction against globalisation, especially among blue-collar workers, as well as the rise of anti-establishment sentiments.
The onset of globalisation in America manifests in two forms- firstly, job mobility, where manual jobs are moved offshore where labour is cheaper, to the detriment of blue-collar workers. Secondly, human mobility, which has encouraged immigration into developed nations such as the US, in search of better opportunities and livelihoods. This triggers a backlash among some, who perceive a loss of cultural identity arising from immigration.
One of the key phrases of the 2016 elections is “anti-establishment”, that is a distrust of ‘establishment’ politicians ( in this case, career politicians such as Clinton and most of the Republican field), in favour of ‘outsiders’ such as Trump or Sanders. The people hold the current slate of politicians responsible for problems facing the country, as well as a representation of a dysfunctional political system.
Enter Trump. A businessman, not a career politician, frequently rails against the ‘Washington establishment’ throughout his campaign – outsider, check. Withdrawing from the TPP? Bringing back manufacturing jobs(as he claims)? Extreme immigration controls? That checks the ‘anti-globalisation’ box. But what about the outrageous and bombastic comments? Errrrrrrrm…..
The rest, as they say, is history.
Image Credit: Channel Newsasia